Best Iced Teas

Updated July 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best iced teas

Last Updated July 2019

There is nothing more refreshing than a tall glass of iced tea on a hot day. Iced tea aficionados know this cold beverage is enjoyable all year round, whether you drink it with meals or between to keep your energy going. Traditionally, iced teas are brewed from caffeinated black tea. These days, iced teas are made with everything from green tea to herbal, from flavored caffeinated teas to decaffeinated black teas.

Iced teas also come in different forms, including ready-to-drink bottles or powders you mix with water. Some tea bags are even specifically designed to be brewed for iced tea. Be aware that iced teas may be unsweetened, or sweetened with sugar or sugar alternatives.

With the wide variety of iced teas on the market, it can be hard to know which to choose. This is why we’ve simplified the shopping process. You can also keep reading for everything you need to know about how to choose the right iced tea for you.

Sun tea is a version of iced tea that is made at a lower temperature by steeping tea bags in the sun — rather than boiling water — for a longer period of time.

Key considerations

Caffeinated vs. decaffeinated

Black and green tea leaves used for iced teas contain caffeine, though green tea less so. The caffeine content of a glass of iced tea depends on various factors: the amount of tea bags used, amount of water and ice added, the type of tea used (black or green), and the steeping time (the longer you steep, the stronger the caffeine kick). The caffeine content of iced teas can vary widely from brand to brand, anywhere from 5 to 48 mg.

A typical eight-ounce glass of black iced tea will contain 47 mg of caffeine. For people with caffeine sensitivities or who don’t care for the jitters, opt for an iced tea made from decaffeinated tea, which will have a fraction of that amount — around 2 mg.

Green vs. black tea

Interestingly, both green and black teas are made from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant, but differ in how they are prepared. Black tea is fermented — exposed to air which browns the leaves. Green tea is pan-fried to avoid fermentation and is much lighter in color.

This also contributes to the difference in taste and caffeine content. Green tea has less caffeine than black tea, around 25 to 35 mg. Some taste buds prefer the more robust, intense taste of black tea in their iced beverage, while others like the lighter taste of iced green tea.

Herbal iced teas

Herbal iced teas contain zero caffeine. While they may not be considered “iced tea” by strict connoisseurs of the beverage, there are many iced teas made from herbal tea, like hibiscus and passionfruit, to name a few. These can be thirst-quenching on a hot day without giving you a caffeine buzz. Kids may also safely enjoy the fruity flavors.

Never from concentrate

Pure Leaf is high-quality bottled iced tea brewed from loose tea leaves and never made from powders or concentrates. This bold black tea comes sweetened or unsweetened. The tea is ethically sourced from Rainforest Alliance Certified plantations.

Forms of iced teas

  • Bottled iced teas come in plastic or glass bottles. They range in size from 14 to 20 fluid ounces. These are formulated to drink straight out of the bottle or can be poured over ice. They are designed for single-serving consumption. Be eco-friendly and recycle bottles when you’re done! Also consider BPA-free plastic bottles.
  • Cans of iced teas are also formulated to drink straight out of the container. They come in a standard aluminum can at 12 fluid ounces, though a few brands sell supersized 23-ounce cans. Some consumers don’t like the metallic taste of drinking from a can and prefer glass bottles that don’t interfere with the taste of the iced tea.   
  • Powdered iced teas are dry mixes of tea, flavoring, and/or sweetener formulated to be mixed with water, then poured over ice. Powders can make a great quantity of iced tea from a couple tablespoons and are quite cost-effective. They might not be as strong in caffeine content as other forms of iced teas.
  • Concentrates of iced teas, like powders, don’t require boiling water or brewing to make iced tea at home. Just add a small measure of liquid concentrate to cold water, stir well or shake in a closed container, and your iced tea is ready to drink. Play around with the ratio of water to concentrate to change tea strength. 
  • Tea bags designed for iced tea require boiling and brewing of tea, then a cooling down period. Though this method is more time-consuming than the others, the quality of homebrewed iced tea can exceed other forms in taste and strength. Some tea bags are designed for a “cold brew” method, which cuts out the need for boiling water.
DID YOU KNOW?

Iced green and black teas are rich in antioxidants called polyphenols that have many health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease.

Sweeteners, organic, and fair trade options

Unsweetened iced teas contain no sugar or artificial sweeteners. They can be quite bitter to the taste, especially black iced teas. They typically don’t have any calories and are a healthy choice, especially if you’re diabetic.

Sweetened iced teas are sweetened with sugar or cane sugar. Other forms of sweeteners include honey or stevia. Sweetened iced teas have more calories than unsweetened varieties, unless sweetened by stevia or artificial sweeteners like aspartame, both sugar-free, zero-calorie alternatives.  

Flavored iced teas run the gamut of flavors, including lemon, mint, blackberry, and pretty much any fruit flavor you can imagine. Often these are syrup-based flavorings, so check the label’s sugar content if you’re watching your carb or sugar intake.

Organic iced teas use tea leaves that have not been exposed to pesticides and other agricultural chemicals which can be harmful to your health. These are conveniently labeled with a USDA organic certification. 

Fair trade iced teas follow standards that ensure workers harvesting the tea leaves are paid fair wages, work in safe conditions, and can contribute to their communities. Tea is often grown in developing nations where competition in the global marketplace can lead to unfair practices.

An Arnold Palmer (also known as half and half) is a tasty drink made from a mix of half iced tea and half lemonade.

Iced tea prices

Inexpensive: Powdered mixes are the lowest-priced iced teas available. They start at $8.50 and go up to $15 containers that yield 38 quarts of iced teas. Packets can run as little as $2.50, yielding six 2-quart pitchers of iced tea.

Mid-range: Bottled iced teas are most cost-effective when bought in a pack. A pack of 12 ranges between $9 and $15. Organic bottled iced teas are $20 per case of 12. Individually, store-bought bottled iced tea costs between $1.50 and $3.50, with organic and fair trade options on the higher end of this range.

Expensive: Concentrates of iced tea come at a higher price point of $15 to $24 per bottle or box of packets, but keep in mind, these can yield up to 32 gallons of iced tea.

EXPERT TIP

Different countries have different versions of iced tea. For instance, Thai iced tea is sweetened with sugar and condensed milk.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • To create a fruit-infused iced tea when home brewing, add slices of fruit (we love strawberries or lemon) to the steeping process. Strain out the fruit before pouring over ice.
  • For a higher quality taste, select bottled iced teas that have been brewed from loose-leaf tea, not manufactured from concentrates.
  • If you’re quitting coffee, try switching to iced teas. Green and black varieties offer less caffeine and also contain L-theanine, an amino acid that counters the restless feeling caffeine can give you.
  • You can brew regular tea bags to make iced tea. Just double the amount you’d normally steep, then dilute with water and allow to cool.

Affordable powder mix

From a brand that’s synonymous with iced tea, this cost-effective powder mix delivers gallons of iced tea. If you’re a fan of sweet tea, this mix is sweetened with real sugar and comes with a hint of lemon that’ll bring some Southern comfort to every glass. Easy to make: just add it to water and pour over ice.

Other products we considered

Although Japanese green tea is traditionally served hot, an iced variety from Japan has hit it big. Ito En Tea Oi Ocha Green Tea, Unsweetened is a healthy green tea choice made from real tea leaves, never from powder or concentrate. Each bottle serves a whopping 17 ounces of unsweetened iced green tea with no artificial ingredients. For an authentic iced green tea, we recommend this brand.

Honest Tea offers this delicious Organic Fair Trade Half Tea & Half Lemonade. If straight iced tea is too bitter for your taste buds, try this mix of lemonade sweetened with organic cane sugar and organic black tea. This brand is committed to using organic ingredients and fair trade practices. Sip on this sweet, refreshing beverage guilt-free.

Iced tea gained popularity in the U.S. at the World’s Fair in St. Louis during the hot summer of 1904, when iced drinks were sought out by the crowd and cold tea was offered by one enterprising tea merchant.

FAQ

Q. What is the difference between sweet tea and iced tea?
A.
Sweet tea is the most common type of iced tea in the Southern region of the United States. It is black tea brewed very strong with a large amount of sugar added while the tea is still hot. This mixture is diluted with water and cooled, then served over ice. If you order “iced tea” in the South, it’ll likely be sweet tea, whereas if you order iced tea in other regions of the U.S. it’ll be the unsweetened variety. If you want to order plain iced tea in the South, you may have to specify “unsweet tea.”

Q. Are iced teas hydrating?
A.
Yes, but be aware they have a diuretic effect, increasing the need to urinate. The myth that caffeine is dehydrating has been debunked, and caffeinated drinks can be part of your daily fluid intake. However, water is still your best option when it comes to staying hydrated, so be sure to drink plenty of it.

Q. Which is better for me, black iced teas or green iced teas?
A.
Granted, if you’re choosing an unsweetened variety, both black and green iced teas have health benefits. They both contain flavonoids (a subgroup of antioxidants called polyphenols) that can protect your heart. Green tea contains a higher amount of the flavonoid EGCG, where black tea is a better source of theaflavins. Both contain caffeine which boosts alertness, focus, and mood; iced black teas contain more of this nervous system stimulant. They both also contain L-theanine, an amino acid coffee lacks, that enhances a calm, relaxed state. In a nutshell, both tea varieties offer commensurate if not identical benefits.

The team that worked on this review
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    Ana
    Writer
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    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Enid
    Enid
    Editor
  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    Writer
  • Katherine
    Katherine
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

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